Lynn Zubernis is quite well known in the Supernatural world and a very visible member of the #SPNFamily, but we know her for her amazingly in-depth recap reviews and interviews.
We’ve loved having her part of the Movie TV Tech Geeks family, so we’re proud to talk about her latest book “Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Their Lives.” You can grab your copy here (yes our shameless plug!)
We recently published exclusive excerpt’s from her latest book, and you can see that here. Keep watching as we’ll be running a series of the best of Lynn’s Supernatural interviews with new introductions from her.
Since she’s spent so many years asking fans and the stars of Supernatural their innermost thoughts and secrets, we thought it only fair to give her the same treatment. So, get to know the woman who has tirelessly given Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and countless other Supernatural fans, friends and cast members plenty of support and media attention
Did you discover Supernatural right when it began or after?
Yes and no. I had a friend who heard about the show at Comic Con and knew she was going to love it from the preview she saw there. She started watching it when it premiered, loved it as expected, and then set about trying to convince all the rest of her friends (including me) to watch it too. When we would have “girls weekends” she would bring VHS tapes (hey, it was 2005) and “make” us all watch Supernatural. I thought it was a good show, but it didn’t bowl me over at first. I watched it sporadically through its first season but wasn’t a ‘fan,’ just a casual viewer. Then, early in Season 2, one night I was grading papers with the tv on in the background, watching Supernatural so I could chat knowledgeably with my friend. I suddenly realized that I was just sitting there, red pen hovering in the air, so transfixed by what was on the screen that I hadn’t graded anything in twenty minutes.
I actually turned to my daughter and said “Ohmygod, this is the BEST show ever! How did I not realize that?”
My daughter (clearly thinking I’d lost my mind): “Mom, you’ve been watching this show for a year…”
It’s true. But something suddenly clicked for me. The moment that did it was Dean and Sam leaning on the Impala, parked at a gorgeous mountain pass when Dean breaks down and gets emotional for the first time. He was so anguished, and Sam, in turn, was so anguished in empathy. I suddenly realized these characters were way more complex than I’d given them credit for. And oh wow, those actors were really kinda attractive too. Huh.
What about it appealed to you so much?
I think it was the emotionality that they weren’t afraid to portray. I watched ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ shortly after, and was once again blown away by Jared and Jensen’s acting. Possessed Sam was a revelation, both when he menaces Jo and later when he tortures his brother. The fact that Dean wouldn’t fight back, and then later hauled off and punched his no-longer-possessed brother, struck me as so real and so compelling (the first Ackles ad lib I noticed, which I now delight in trying to figure out).
It was especially rare at the time to find a show that allowed its male leads to express so much emotion, certainly not for each other. But because Sam and Dean were brothers, they got a pass, and the result was a relationship that was fascinating and endlessly inspiring. Here were two brothers who really would die for each other, and that got me by the heartstrings. (It still has me by the heartstrings over a decade later). The chemistry between the two actors was off the charts from day one, bringing the depth of that relationship to life in an extraordinary way. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I’d fallen for the Show and the characters that I even noticed that Jared and Jensen were somewhat attractive. Once I noticed, I didn’t forget it again though.
Another wave of new fans were drawn to the show with the addition of Misha Collins as Castiel in Season 4. Castiel was another fascinating character, and his status as the perpetual outsider who always felt a little different and set apart really spoke to many fans. (Many of us define ourselves as unique as well). Misha also was the first to tap into the fandom’s creativity and passion to help do good in the world, which spread to the entire SPN Family, cast and fandom alike.
Was there anything going on in your life at the time that made the show feel like it was speaking to you? Many fans talk about something life changing happening to them and how the show has helped them weather the storm.
I was in the midst of a lot of change. My children were going through some transitions, I was thinking of changing jobs (still a psychologist, but from clinical practice to being a professor) and was in a relationship that wasn’t all that fulfilling. None of those things at the time were cataclysmic, but there was a lot of uncertainty. I don’t like change, and I was faced with a lot of it. I think, looking back, that becoming passionate about something else—like a television show—was a helpful fantasy escape for 42 minutes a week.
Once I discovered the fan community, that was even more helpful—like a built in therapy group I could access at the touch of a button. Through the fandom support, I got back in touch with my own creativity and self-expression, which had gotten lost and put on the back burner to being a mom and a partner and a therapist. Who had time for things like self-expression?
There’s no denying that the message of the show is an inspiring one also. The Winchesters and Cas have been through more than most of us will ever have to face, and they still keep getting up and going on. During challenging times, that’s a very helpful message. #AlwaysKeepFighting. I’ve needed to hear it sometimes, just like most of us have.
Were you surprised to find out how devoted its fanbase was?
Absolutely. I had never been part of an organized fandom, so I didn’t even know that online fan communities existed, let alone for a little-known show on a little-known network! I knew how devoted I had become, so it was a tremendous relief to find that there were lots of other people out there who were thinking and feeling the same things that I was about this show. And who were also creative and passionate and wanting to share that passion openly with like-minded others.
Once I started going to conventions, I started to realize that this was a unique fandom—and a unique group of actors too. I think we used the phrase “lightning in a bottle” early on, and others started to use it about the show too, to describe both the chemistry between the actors and how passionate the show’s fans were.
What inspired you to write the first book, and did you think it might be a great way to meet other fans like yourself plus the stars of the show?
At first, that wasn’t our thought at all. I’m a psychologist, so I’m endlessly fascinated by what makes people do the things they do and feel the things they feel. That goes for myself too. So when (usually level headed, briefcase carrying, serious-minded) me was suddenly spending hours every night scouring the internet for pictures of Jared and Jensen and Supernatural fanfiction, my first thought was OMG what is happening to me?! I started to do research with the goal of figuring that out, along with fellow professor Kathy Larsen.
We started out talking to other fans, collecting data as it were. Then we wondered how the “other side” felt about this whole fandom thing—did they value it? Think it was crazy? Were they a little scared? Once again, the best way to figure that out seemed to be to ask. So, naively, we started picking up the phone and just asking. We blundered our way into conversations with then writer Sera Gamble (who wanted to talk to us writer to writer), writer Betsy Morris (who had penned the indie film Ten Inch Hero, starring Jensen Ackles and Danneel Harris) and actor Jim Beaver (who answered his own phone). The conversation with Jim was thoroughly fascinating, and he was amazingly kind and welcoming—he welcomed us right into his house to spend three hours in his living room drinking homemade iced tea and talking about EVERYTHING. Sera and Betsy became correspondence pals; I think because we were all writers. Betsy introduced us to Danneel (now Ackles), and she was so kind and welcoming too that we were encouraged to just keep on talking to these people. I realize now that we were incredibly lucky and just happened to start out with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
We make fun of ourselves in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ for writing a book to “get to meet the actors” but the first book, “Fandom At The Crossroads,” really wasn’t about that. Crossroads is an academic book that tried to answer those early questions. Did we later develop a never-talked-about semi-unconscious goal of trying to meet the elusive Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki? Absolutely. I mean, we had questions to ask.
Has there been a specific low point in your life that Supernatural has helped you get through?
Just recently, yes. My dad passed away at the end of last year quite suddenly. I was very close to him, and his loss hit me very hard. When I got the news, I was literally walking in the door of a Supernatural convention. And while that might seem like not the best place to be for such news, it turned out to be a godsend. I walked in, and the Creation convention staff immediately knew there was something wrong. I told one or two, and they swung into action. They checked me in, got a wristband on me even though it was late and registration was closed, made sure I had something to drink and some Advil. They escorted me into the auditorium where the traditional Saturday evening concert (the “Saturday Night Special”) was about to start and walked me to my seat, then checked on me periodically. I was sort of in shock and just wanted to sit back and immerse myself in the music and in the company of my fellow fans, many of whom are now good friends. I wanted to listen to the beautiful music of Louden Swain and friends and give my brain a chance to process the information I’d just gotten before I called my kids and the rest of the family.
There is a moment during the concert when actor Matt Cohen often leaps off the stage and runs through the audience, standing on chairs and getting us all riled up and in the spirit. That night, Matt jumped down and came straight over to me, threw his arms around me and whispered in my ear “I’m so sorry. You know we all love you.”
It was a simple gesture, but it meant so much. Later that night and the next day, most of the actors found a moment to say the same thing. Including the show’s leads, who you would expect to be too busy with a hectic schedule to think about such things. They made me cry for the first time with the strength of their hugs, but it was a good cry.
I won’t forget that phone call, of course, but because it’s also wrapped up with such an expression of love and caring—from such an unlikely source—that it eases the memory even now. That’s what SPNFamily – and Family Don’t End With Blood – is all about.
As you cover so many Supernatural Cons and are traveling so much, does it ever cause any conflicts within your own family?
Sometimes. Especially early on, when my children were younger and not at all happy about mom taking off for the weekend. Kathy and I used to take turns being on the phone with a disgruntled child, then cry on each other’s shoulders about it when we hung up. There were some disgruntled partner conversations too. Once the books started to be published, the legitimacy of the research and the writing and the con-going made things easier. But is it still a source of conflict sometimes.
What have you learned most about fan culture in researching your books?
How unique fandom is as a community, and how valuable. For many of us, but especially for women, there is a strong message not to be yourself—to put on a façade and be whatever is socially acceptable. Fandom knocked that norm on its head. Fandom said, be who you really are, even if you’re pretty sure you are absolutely WEIRD. Be it anyway—and damned if you won’t find a whole bunch of other people who instead of saying “You’re weird” will jump up and down and say “Oh yay, me too!” That was life changing for me. I got to be myself and to find lifelong friends who liked that real self just fine. It helped me start to be that real self in the rest of my “real” life too.
That’s not to say there isn’t conflict in fandom. It’s a group—and while groups bring us belongingness, which we have an evolutionary need for—they also bring hierarchies and jockeying for positions of power and intra and inter-group conflict. That’s why we have Sam fans and Dean fans and Cas fans and shippers of every possible combination, and sometimes it seems like these groups of people can’t possibly be part of the same fandom. With great passion comes great investment, so everyone wants the story to go their way. Some of that is inevitable, but it doesn’t erase all the wonderful healthy things about fandom. I have friends in every single camp and cherish them all.
When you began writing about Supernatural, were the PR people at the show helpful or did you have to find your own ways to get access to people like Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins?
They were hugely helpful in the beginning. They were at first very interested in our book. Nobody else had really taken an interest in the show at the time, so two professors who wanted to write a whole book about it was their best shot at somebody trying to keep it on the air (it was at the time constantly on the verge of cancellation). They invited us to the set and everyone on the set was unbelievably kind—they were all so proud of their show and their part in making it that everyone, one by one, came up to introduce themselves and then offer to show us exactly what they did. We met the art director, the director of photography, the lovely man who wrangles the cars, the props person—everyone! Jared and Jensen invited us into their trailers for candid conversation even though they’d been on set for an entire day and way into the night, and Misha met up with us at a local bar after filming was over. Everyone was absolutely lovely. Unfortunately, we wanted to write a very different book than the one the studio wanted us to write—we wanted to tell what we saw as the real story of fandom and Supernatural, not the light and fluffy version. The sad thing is, that never meant that what we wanted to write wasn’t positive – it was even more powerful for its “realness” so that positivity actually rang true! I’ll never really know what made them so nervous about what we were going to write, but they slammed the doors on us and decided they didn’t want to publish our book after all. At the time, we were crushed, but it turned out to be for the best. We got to tell the story we wanted to tell, and that so many fans have told us changed their lives over the years, which was the most important thing.
What would your advice be for the PR people at Supernatural who didn’t make it so easy for you with your interviews and books?
Like I said, it worked out, but it certainly wasn’t easy. And it made no sense! I’ve written five books on Supernatural and countless blog posts and articles and interviews on everything from NPR to The Conversation to Nylon to right here at MovieTVTechGeeks. I’ve spread the word about this show for ELEVEN YEARS, not because I was paid to do so, but because I genuinely wanted to, and without any help. Our books have reached tons of people, and the interviews and articles have reached countless more. That’s the kind of PR people pay tons of money for, and all that publicity was absolutely for free. Why wouldn’t they want to facilitate that? The actors and show creator Eric Kripke have all let us know that they recognize our significant contribution to keeping the show on the air, which is what means the most to me. But would it be nice to have some recognition from the studio? Yes. I have an entire blog and all those articles and books devoted to this particular show and don’t even get invited to the set visits for bloggers. With help, I could do even more for the Show. Isn’t that a win/win?
FULL DISCLOSURE: We here at Movie TV Tech Geeks have encountered very similar experiences with the PR person at the CW Supernatural publicity department. Oddly enough, it’s been easier to get interviews with people like Ben Affleck, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Ridley Scott and Dwayne Johnson than Jensen, Jared or Misha.
Can you say that Supernatural has changed your life like so many other fans?
Absolutely. I’ve told the actors this many times—I’ve even thanked them for their substantive contribution to helping me get tenure and promotion at my university with all my Supernatural psychology research. It has changed my professional life and also my personal life. I’m a different person now than I was when I discovered this show way back in 2007. More outspoken, more confident, more comfortable in my own skin and less willing to put on a façade instead of being myself. I’ve made friends who will be friends for life, with whom I’ve traveled the world and had more crazy wild wonderful experiences than I ever could have imagined having.
I’ve shared what I’ve learned about this fandom and this show with the actors, which is part of the reason I think they wanted to contribute to the new book I have coming out next week, Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural has Changed Lives. They know that they’ve been a part of something unique and special and that knowledge has changed them too. I was honored that they trusted me enough to write their personal stories for the new book and to let me shepherd them through the process of writing. It’s been a privilege to get to know them through the years, just as it’s been a privilege to get to know so many of my fellow fans. After all, I wrote a chapter in the book too. It’s called “Fangirl”.
You can check out all of Lynn’s books on Supernatural here, and if you’re in Los Angeles on May 10, you can meet her and plenty of SPN fans and cast.